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2015 - The Motorcycle Show Vancouver

Contributed by Trevor Marc Hughes 
All photos by Trevor Marc Hughes

It’s the scope of the displays that is most exciting. It also is what is most intimidating.

Where do you start? Will you be able to take it all in?
 

Walking into Tradex is something like seeing gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. It’s difficult not to start bounding along like an excited ten-year-old, zipping back and forth from booth to booth, hungry to find out what’s new and interesting for motorcycling in 2015.

First, my enthusiasm was curbed by the lack of something. As I approached the incredible new designs of Victory Motorcycles in the Polaris display, I discovered a distinct lack of an Indian Scout.
“There are no B.C. dealers yet,” Terry Fetter of Victoria’s Action Motorcycles explained to me.

It would seem the cost of building up sales momentum for the new Indian models is too much west of the Rockies.

“It’s just not worth displaying four Indian Scouts right now,” Fetter tells me.

It would seem it’s going to be awhile before I’ll be sitting on an Indian Scout at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show.

I tempered my disappointment with a visit to Ireland. Celtic Rider is just one of the many motorcycle touring companies at the show, a list which includes Compass Expeditions, Edelweiss Bike Travel and Renedian Adventures. I speak with Connor about who chooses to ride Ireland.

“About 95% of our clientele are women,” he tells me.

With tourism growing in Ireland, so it would seem is motorcycle touring. Each tour package comes with an “orientation” for those who are used to riding on the right side of the road.

“Riding on the left is not a big deal,” he informs me.

Further left down this great hall is a sea of orange. KTM has a display featuring what would not be the last of this sort of bike I would see at the show: the introductory motorcycle. The KTM 390 Duke looks a tight, durable little machine. And with an MSRP of $5499 and a dry weight of a little over 300 pounds, it’s an affordable bit of orange.

 
What’s new with Suzuki? Well, as one rep put it: there’s the compact GSX-S750, a streetfighter influenced by supersport models like the GSX-R750, or for the ADV crowd, there’s a revamping of the DL-650. The Suzuki V-Strom 650X features spoke wheels and a “beak” out front. Does that look like another large adventure bike we know? It comes in “Candy Daring Red” and “Metallic Mat Fibroin Grey”.

The Yamaha section is the most impressive for me, with the large red symbol hanging from the ceiling. What’s also red, and new, is a YZF-R3. I watch as several nervous young lady visitors try to straddle it. And I think that’s what Yamaha may be thinking with this new lightweight sportbike: find the new and upcoming riders. It looks like an R6, but the 321cc engine will be easier to handle for those just being introduced to motorcycling.


I speak with Clinton Smout, who writes a column for Motorcycle Mojo and appears on “Motorcycle Experience” with Dave Hatch, as we both eye the R3. He tells me his eighteen-year-old son is entering the motorcycling market and if he is thinking about getting an R6, he would tell him to think twice and consider an R3. Good fatherly advice there. At an MSRP of $4999 the R3’s a little easier on a young adult’s budget too. He points over to the new ADV option from Yamaha, the FJ-09, billed as a sport-touring model taking after the FZ-09. It’s not an off-road capable bike, but it certainly seems Yamaha’s trying to corner the ADV lifestyle market with this one.



Harley-Davidson dominates much of one end of a hall, but its bikes are looking smaller. The introduction of Street 500 and 750 models seems to indicate that the iconic American manufacturer is trying to corner that beginning motorcyclist market too. Over to the right, the Tron-like whir of an electric motorcycle can be heard. This is not a light-cycle. It’s a visitor trying out Project Livewire, a surprising new initiative, but still only in the late prototype stage. But it’ll be interesting to see
what is developed in an electric bike model for the motorcycle market to be seen at next year’s show.




Of course there are many other bikes to mention: Ducati’s 821cc slimmed down and much more affordable Monster, the increasingly “rough road capable” Honda  CB500X looking to rival other sport touring models in its class, the more rider-friendly yet torquey BMW S1000RR, and, of course, the eagerly anticipated Kawasaki Ninja H2, cordoned off behind restraint straps as though its 1000cc supercharged engine is about to break free from its cage.





These are all impressive. But I choose to round off my visit to the 2015 Vancouver Motorcycle Show by meeting some of the adventurers that take motorcycles to their limits, live to tell the tale and write about it. Jeremy Kroeker wrote “Motorcycle Therapy”, a true story about his adventure on a KLR650 into Central America. His new book “Through Dust And Darkness” has done well critically. He tells me it’s not easy being an author, but he’s happy for the success of the latest book, which chronicles his motorcycle travels through the Middle East. A down-to-earth guy, he signs a copy for me on the spot.


 
Just as I’m about to leave, closing warnings booming over the loudspeakers, I see Rene Cormier. I met him the year before. His book “The University of Gravel Roads” is one of the best motorcycling circumnavigation tales I’ve read and now he heads Renedian Adventures, his own company that launches motorcycle expeditions all over southwest Africa. He spends half the year in Canada, the rest in Africa. He always has a smile and a handshake, and is someone I think would be great
company while traveling by motorcycle.

 
So, if I were to find overall themes that emerge from this year’s show, they’d have to be a trend towards manufacturers seeking to dominate the beginner motorcyclist market and continued growth, and fusing styles, in adventure motorcycles. Next year though, electric motorcycles, and the discussion they create, could be more of a focus. The show sure does what it’s billed to do though…make me excited for the upcoming riding season.

Links:

The Motorcycle Show Vancouver - http://www.vancouvermotorcycleshow.ca/
Renedian Adventures - http://www.renedian.com/
Jeremy Kroeker - http://www.motorcycletherapy.com/



The Georgian Bay Circle Tour

Closer than expected, beyond your expectations
Story and photos by Dustin A. Woods

There is no more relaxing way to spend a vacation than taking a trip on motorcycle. Free from the distraction of e-mail, phone calls and various handheld devices that monopolize our time and attention, being at one with the open road allows time for reflection and refuge from the daily grind. How often do you see motorcycles parked outside of a therapist’s office? Exactly. Whether your first excursion of the season, or possibly ever, there are certain essentials that one should aim to achieve. The ideal first roadtrip shouldn’t be too ambitious but should still involve travelling a decent enough distance to get outside of your area code and comfort zone – the weekly ride to Starbucks doesn’t count.


Regardless of whether I camp or stay in a hotel, I always have a general idea of where I’ll be sleeping but leave plenty of flexibility for spontaneity and misadventure. I find doing a little research beforehand goes a long way to allowing you to learn about where to go and what to do. Unlike driving a car, you will be exposed to fatigue and the elements, so plan your itinerary and attire accordingly. Hope for the best but plan for the worst; that includes packing both raingear and sunscreen, a GPS or even a good old fashioned map, first-aid and tool kits. Better safe than sorry.

For my first trip of the season, I had a free weekend at my disposal, a 2012 Harley-Davidson Street Glide CVO and a full tank of gas. How much can you explore in between quitting time on Friday afternoon and role cal Monday morning? You’d be surprised. I did some sniffing around and found that Georgian Bay offers a surprisingly diverse selection of scenery and options for places to play and stay. It is a perfect distance because it is off the beaten path but won’t take long to get there and back. There is also plenty to keep you busy if you have more time to spend.

Being the summer solstice, I decided to take advantage of the longest day of the year by scoping out as many beaches as I could over the course of the weekend and had seen several interesting lighthouses and waterfalls I’d been told were worth a look. My goal for the first night was getting out of Toronto and ensuring I wasn’t under too much pressure to log serious miles the next day. I figured Parry Sound would be as good a spot as any and would be a big enough city to access fuel for both the bike and myself if I got there later than expected. I had stayed at the Bayside Inn several years ago when it first opened and not quite ready for prime time but it has improved by leaps and bounds to become a true diamond in the rough. After a long day of work and a few solid hours on the bike, a hot shower and one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on in recent memory were a Godsend. Being June, sunset didn’t occur until late in the evening so I had enough time to ride to Waubuno Beach to enjoy its colourful splendour.

The next morning I set off to check out Killbear Beach before heading North on Highway 69 to Sudbury. You wouldn’t think of such a city to top the list of beach destinations but both Bell Parks Beach and Moonlight Beach were well worth the trip. After enjoying a cold drink and some lunch, I headed west on Highway 17 then south on Highway 6 to Espanola, passing through the quaint little town of Little Current. A small town with a big heart, the main street was bustling with people out shopping, having patio drinks and even buskers entertaining passersby – something you would associate with the big city. Continuing south, the landscape abruptly changed as the smooth asphalt snaked through giant rock faces and pristine lakes one would associate with British Colombia. The scenery changed once again as I reached Providence Bay which seemed more reminiscent of the Hamptons than Ontario. Walking back to the bike after snapping pictures on the beach, a mother was trying to pull her son, who must have been five or six, away from staring at the gleaming Harley. I asked if he wanted to help me start the engine and his eyes grew as big as pie plates as he nodded enthusiastically. Asking his impatient mother’s permission, I propped him up on my lap and primed the engine, instructing him to hold the start button. As the 110 CI Screamin’ Eagle V-Twin sputtered and roared to life, he laughed and giggled maniacally, clapping his hands - a future rider no doubt. His mother seemed less impressed but I certainly made his day.

Circling Georgian Bay on the west side involves crossing the main channel between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry. I arrived early so killed some time watching boats go by and enjoyed some fresh fudge from the Wigwam Gift Shoppe, which I highly recommend. The 50 km ride from South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island to Tobermory on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula takes about two hours and travels between the islands of Fathom Five National Marine Park, and passes the Imperial Tower of the Cove Island Lighthouse making you feel as if you’ve travelled to Nova Scotia even though you are only hours away from the city. Chi-Cheemaun, which I discovered means “Big Canoe” in Ojibway, is large enough to carry 143 cars and 638 passengers. I had no idea how large this ‘big’ ferry was and was surprised to see a number of transport trucks emerge from its raised nose upon docking. Spots fill up quickly so if you plan on doing the same, book early.


Being fortunate enough to have travelled all over the world, I am always amazed at how beautiful and diverse my own province is. Another reason why I wanted to visit Tobermory was the Fathom Five National Marine Park, which offers crystal clear water, grottos, and fascinating rock formations known as “Rock Pillars” like Flowerpot Island, not to mention 22 shipwrecks. Once a bustling port, Big Tub Harbour is the deepest natural harbour in the Great Lakes which offered shelter during inclement weather. Old wooden schooners, freighters and tugboats from as early as the 1800s reside in their final resting places at various depths surprisingly intact due to the frigid temperatures and lack of Teredo Worms (termites of the sea) that don’t exist in fresh water. These eerie relics serve as reminders of a time when weather forecasting and navigation were far less sophisticated and effective than they are today.

Visiting the Big Tub Lighthouse helps tell the story of the area, which is rich with nautical history and geographical anomalies. I wandered up the road to have a nice dinner at Bootleggers Cove Pub on the deck overlooking the water as the sun went down. Gorgeous. I then checked in to the ‘Adventure Inn the Bruce’ where I’d be spending the night and was able to drive right up to my room. Before I could even ask, one of the proprietors walked over with a slab of wood for my kick-stand. She pointed at her own Honda Shadow at the back of the parking lot, acknowledging that her and her husband do a fair bit of bike travelling in the off season so they know what bikers are looking for in accommodations. They were right. The close proximity of my door to the bike was especially helpful the next morning as I retrieved my rain gear from the saddlebags in the pouring rain.

Thankfully the skies cleared as I made my way to the Bruce Peninsula National Park and Lion’s Head down to Sauble Beach. Not only is Lobby’s Beachfront Restaurant right on the beach, but they also have “Motorcycle Parking Only” signs out front – always good to see. Eager to experience more unique landscapes on my way home, I decided to weave through Thornbury, Collingwood and over to Wasaga Beach, which I learned is the largest fresh water beach in the world! Tossing the hefty Hog around twisty turns down to Flesherton, I could spend a week exploring all the backcountry roads but I reluctantly headed back into the city. Although I hadn’t been gone for long, I was truly shocked at the amount of traffic congestion and aggressive tendencies of drivers that I hadn’t had to deal with all weekend. It turns out it only took me two days to become acclimatized to the slower, more relaxing pace of life.

The Georgian Bay and Grey Bruce regions have much to offer the two-wheeled traveler; wide open roads, genuine hospitality, motorcycle-friendly accommodations and destinations as welcoming as they are diverse. Whether travelling alone or with a group, the area offers something for everyone. On your next adventure, take the time to discover the regions’ incredibly unique geographic landscapes and fascinating nautical history, you won’t be disappointed. It won’t take long to discover around the watercooler on Monday morning who had the most interesting weekend either.

For more information, visit: www.visitgeorgianbay.com and www.ridegreybruce.com




2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Convertible CVO - Review


Story and photos by Dustin A. Woods

Over the course of my time with the 2011 Softail Convertible CVO, I was approached many times by curious onlookers that would admire the bike and inquire as to what model it was. After responding, I was inevitably asked, “Isn’t every motorcycle a convertible?” To be fair, it’s a valid question. After all, how many motorcycles have you ever seen with a roof? In this case, the term convertible refers to the fact that this Softail CVO can easily be transformed from a custom tourer to a custom cruiser in mere minutes. For those who may be on the fence over which kind of model to purchase next and aren’t a fan of compromise, this split personality Softail was introduced in 2010 to be the best of both worlds.


The Convertible CVO has a unique fairing that can be attached or detached in two shakes of a lambs tail. Remove the side saddlebags and back rest and presto chango, you're ready to go cruising. Heading out on a long trip? Simply reattach the two pins that keep the fairing in place, click the saddlebags back on and hit the open road. Cruise control is also standard, which most owners will never bother with but can be a Godsend on a long journey. One of the benefits of Harley baggers is the fact that they include a kick-ass sound system that allows you to enjoy your favourite tunes if for some unknown reason you happen to grow weary of the V-Twin symphony booming from between your thighs. Being a removable unit, it would be too complicated to outfit the Convertible with a permanent stereo, but it does house a simpler two speaker system with 20 watts per channel along with an auxiliary input and pocket for an MP3 player. Volume can be adjusted by hitting the + and – buttons on the inside of the front fairing but if you want to change songs on your Harley iPod, it requires pulling over and shuffling through playlists on the MP3 player so you better make sure you choose your riding music carefully. You’ve been warned.

CVO, for those who may be unfamiliar, stands for Custom Vehicle Operations, a limited production program that adds acres of chrome, accessories that are unavailable on the standard lineup of bikes and flashy paint schemes like that of the Roman Gold  with Burnished Copper Graphics of my tester. This also included the Convertible’s leather seat, complete with alligator inserts. Sinking into this handsome saddle is an easy proposition for those who may be inseam impaired as it sits at a lowly 665mm (26.2-inches) – even shorter than the Fat Boy Lo.

Thumb the starter button and the twin cam Screamin’ Eagle V-Twin coughs and sputters before roaring to life and settling into that familiar idle with which Harley has become synonymous. Keyless ignition means never having to fumble for the keys. Leave the fob in your pocket and forget about it. Harley is also famous for torque, and the 110 cubic inch powerplant churns out 110 ft-lbs at 3,000 rpm. Certainly nothing to scoff at, however its running weight tips the scales at a portly 354.3kg (781 lbs) so don’t expect to pass too many gas stations on a long journey if your hand is enthusiastic on the throttle.

While the removable fairing isn’t nearly as heavy and cumbersome as that of a Street Glide, it does add weight to the front end and also does more to disrupt oncoming air rather than make friends with it once reaching highway speeds. The ape hanger handlebars are more comfortable than they look and definitely add to the custom look but aren’t ideal for carving corners, nor are the floorboards that I scuffed after about 10 minutes on the bike.

Thanks to the booming air-cooled, fuel-injected 45-degree V-Twin and six-speed transmission, the Convertible CVO is a blast to ride but definitely isn’t purpose-built for speed. But then again, that isn’t really the point, is it? Like most Hogs, it feels most at home when cruising boulevards or smooth two-lane blacktop. Visually similar to the "hardtail" choppers of years gone by, this Softail features a hidden shock under the chassis to soften the frost heaves and potholes of our sadly neglected roadways. Reeling in that power wasn’t a revelation but braking was actually better than expected, thanks to the four piston calipers grabbing up front, two piston calipers in the rear and ABS as standard equipment. Another set of discs could be added but it would be a shame to overshadow the 18-inch chrome StingerTM custom cast aluminum wheels.

Tipping the register at $32,739, the Convertible CVO certainly isn’t cheap but those who were previously considering the possibility of adding another steed to their stable can take solace in the fact that is it essentially two motorcycles in one.

+
Torquey Sceamin’ Eagle 110CI V-Twin
Custom tourer or custom cruiser? Buy one, get both.
Paint scheme worthy of a show bike

-
Prepare to scuff the floorboards
Not exactly a fuel miser





2011 Atlantic Motorcycle And ATV show slideshow

The 2011 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show looked like a successful one to my eyes.  It was a little quiet on Friday but then most people are still at work after all.  On Saturday the Moncton Coliseum was a busy place with tons of men, women, and children of all ages checking out all the latest motorcycles and getting some deals on motorcycle gear.

There was excellent manufacturer representation and a few surprises too.  Royal Enfield Canada had a display and several bikes. MV Agusta Canada was there too.  We had a chat with the guys at the MV booth.  If you want an MV Agusta you'd better act fast.  They're only bringing in around a hundred to Canada this year. You can buy one by going to their website and reserving one.  A big deposit should help smooth things along as well. Their eventual plan is to work on establishing a dealer network but for now the bikes are being distributed by Motovan.

As usual Clinton Smout was there offering kids free 30 minute lessons. He runs Canadian Motorcycle Training Services (CMTS in Ontario and has introduced tens of thousands of people to motorcycling.   A super nice guy who always seems to have a smile on his face I might add.  Good on Yamaha for supporting him.  This summer he's going to be adding some on-road training at Horseshoe Valley Resort. They can even deliver the licensing exam at the end of the training.  Nice!

Another interesting person at the show was Rene Cormier - author of "The University of Gravel Roads" was there.  He's an infectiously avid adventurer with a 5 year around the world (154,000 km'!) trip under his belt; he now offers motorcycle tours in Africa. We'll be reading his book and offering some insight on it soon.  But having thumbed through it already... I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it. Check out his site and his book - HERE.  After a short chat with him I'm ready to start saving my pennies for a trip to Africa.

Some other standouts in terms of motorcycles would be the Honda CBR 250R. I predict it'll be a big seller.  Fit and finish is excellent and it looks more expensive than it is.  250cc is big enough that it's capable of handling any Canadian road or highway with ease.  Having it built in Thailand and offering it as a global bike has allowed Honda to get the pricing right too. It undercuts the MSRP of the Kawasaki 250R by $500. The Kawasaki 250R is $4,999 while the CBR 250R is $4,499 without ABS or you get it with ABS for $4,999.  Yup, ABS - for $500.  Smart move by Honda to offer that on this class of motorcycle. If you're in the market for a 250 you could also look at the Suzuki TU250 - a classically styled single which is said to have a MSRP of  $5,299. Might want to re-think that price point Suzuki. I don't see them flying out the door at that price.

The guys from Atlantic Motoplex had a big presence at the show with five brands under their banner they were busy.  Of particular interest to me were some of the Triumphs - the new 800cc adventure model to be exact. They weren't sure it was going to arrive in time for the show.  Well, it did; albeit without any brochures but it looks a lot like a BMW F800 GS. Except a little cheaper we're told and with more power than the beemer.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Ducati had a Diavel Carbon there which is their new muscle cruiser for lack of a better category of description. I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that when I sat on it, it feels pretty good.  The airbox is massive and creates a really imposing front end.  There's some really cool touches such as retractable passenger pegs that when not in use tuck away out of sight. Given the power this bike has and the weight advantage it's got over other cruisers its size this should be an exciting bike.

And now - on to the pictures.  We'll be adding more soon so do check back!


2010 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV Show - A pictorial

This year marked the third year for the Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show in Moncton. Produced by Master Promotion, owned by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council (MMIC) and Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council (COHV) - the event appeared to be the popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts to be in Moncton the weekend of Feb 12-14, 2010.

I haven't heard about the numbers that came through but there were roughly 15,000 last year. I don't know that it was quite as busy as last year but if you're a fan of motorcycles you wouldn't have minded - it just meant it was a little easier to get through the crowds and there'd be a better chance you'd get to sit on a few more bikes.

Most of the big manufacturers were there showing off their newest 2010 models.  There were a few standout bikes for me; notably the new Honda VFR1200, the BMW S1000RR, a Ducati 1198R, and Patrick Trahan's Dakar prepped Honda.

We took a few photo's and thought we'd share.  More content about the show is coming soon.


Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

5 days, 4 nights - that’s the amount of time I had with a black pearl Harley Davidson motorcycle going by the the name of “Fat Bob.” A member of the DYNA family of Harley’s, and introduced in 2008, it’s a stretched out and unapologetic motorcycle. You won't find any frilly leathers, unnecessary add-ons, seat heaters, ipod attachments and nor will you get any protection from the elements. It's just you and the road and that's obviously got some appeal judging from the abundance of Harley's on the roads.

The Fat-Bob might look strictly old-school but there are some modern touches under the skin whilst maintaining a minimalist and custom look. The cables run inside the V-shaped stainless drag-style handlebar (which are larger diameter than normal because of this). The bars are smaller diameter at the grip but the grip itself brings the diameter back out to the size of the bar everywhere else. It helps to have a large hand if you want to be able to wrap your fingers solidly around the bar.

Another example of the technology lying beneath the surface of the Fat-Bob is that if you buy the optional $440 security system you don’t even need to use a key to start this bike. Well, I should say you have to use the key to put the bike in the ignition position or as I say the 'at the ready' position but the key fob features a proximity sensor so once this is done you can put your keys in your pocket. Then, just put the dial switch in the ignition position with your hand (there's also an 'off' and 'accessories' position), wait for the electronic fuel injection whirring sound to complete its cycle, thumb the starter and the big 45 degree v-twin burbles to life. When you stop to get off, hit the kill switch, turn the ignition switch off and walk away with the key still in your pocket. The security system automatically arms. If you're leaving the bike for a while its probably a good idea to use the key to take the bike out of the 'at the ready' mode and lock the steering particularly if you're leaving it in unmonitored areas to make it tougher for unscrupulous folks to roll it onto a waiting truck. The security system includes an immobilizer in North America and and an immobilizer and siren outside that region.

Starting this big twin produces a very satisfying, deep and distinct, Harley-Davidson potato-potato rumble. That rumble resonates through a two-into-one-into-two exhaust. The exhaust is shiny chrome; there's carefully placed protective covers where your legs might easily touch featuring oval venting slots in the outer skin, purposely designed to resemble the cooling vents on a Tommy gun. It still gets a little warm though so watch yourself.

The Fat Bob comes from a line of bikes pegged between the big touring FL bikes and the XL Sportsters - the FX series. Mating the lighter front end of a XL to the FL frame produced a family of five FX bikes, renamed as Dyna's in 2006. The Fat Bob name comes from the fat 18.93 litre tank, with centre console, and bobbed rear fender.

The fenders cover up tires that HD commissioned Dunlop to produce specifically for this bike. The rear end has a beefy 180 profile tire on a 16" slotted disc cast aluminum wheel while the front is a 130/90-16 on a solid disc cast aluminum wheel. It's the front tire that really seems to stand out - it's a really fat front tire for a production motorcycle. I must say that it looks and feels right on this bike and contributes greatly to its handling and stability. I came across several stretches of highway and secondary roads with chewed up pavement. Bikes with narrower tires tend to wander on that type of surface as the contact patch tries to find the flat point on the road. Another infamous Canadian road hazard; tar snakes, are handled in stride. You can feel these imperfections but the Fat Bob just rolls right over them.

As one might expect, "Fat Bob" isn't a lightweight and checks in at 703 lbs fully fueled. But, it's pushed along by a big 96 cubic inch (that’s 1584 cc’s), air cooled engine - which does so with ease. It's good for a whopping 92 ft-lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm and mated to a 6-speed cruise drive transmission and belt final drive. Cracking open the throttle give you the sensation that you've just been launched from a sling-shot. A tough feeling to describe, but believe me - it WILL put a smile on your face!

So, you're probably wondering - how fast will it go? The answer is pretty fast, you can break the speed limit on any Canadian highway without breaking a sweat. I didn't feel the desire to try to ride fast on this bike though. The 60-100 km/hr range seemed to be a real sweet spot that the bike was more than happy to plod along at all day; I was happy to oblige, stick to the speed limits, and enjoy the ride.

It was a pleasant surprise just how nimble the bike was once under power. The big v-twin will nearly pull away from a stop with just a slow release of the clutch. The engine in this bike is larger than the one in my old Civic hatchback! So it needs to be treated with respect even though it's remarkably easy to ride. Despite its heft the bike is a breeze to maneuver at low speeds, amazingly so even. U-turns and parking lots are nothing to fear. The only time this bike is a handful is when you're trying to push it around a parking lot - so park wisely.

My loaner was equipped with forward foot controls but mid-mount controls are also available as a factory option. I've got a 32" inseam and the forward foot controls were a little bit of a stretch and during extended rides they did put my hip flexor muscles to the test. Despite the slight stretch it is a pretty comfortable position so definitely don't rule it out, especially if you've got a longer leg. The seat height of 663 mm (26.1 in) is very low and being able to touch the ground flat footed won't be an issue for just about anybody - reaching forward mounted controls would be an issue long before seat height.

From the riders perspective the seat is deeply sculpted and quite comfortable. There's support in the rear and I'd describe it as being almost tractor style in shape. With the forward mount controls, adjusting your position means you've got to pull yourself toward the front tire using the handlebars because you can't use your legs to do it. Behind the rider the seat tapers to a narrow point over the rear fender. Reports from my passenger indicate that it's not as comfortable as the rider's position. In stock trim, there's nothing for the passenger to hang on to except the rider and it's difficult to shift your weight. A sissy bar (basically a backrest) is an available option that you might consider if you regularly have a passenger, otherwise they'll have to hang on tight! A lower body massage does come standard courtesy of the v-twin rumble.

Instrumentation on the Fat Bob is excellent and packaged into a large, round, tank mounted gauge. The round gauge includes an odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, and 6-speed indicator light. A discreetly placed button on the left side of the gauge lets you toggle through the display features.

The only thing missing from the instrumentation is a tachometer. It's not really an essential bit of information given the torque this motor produces. You're never too far from being in the proper gear. The 6th gear light is an especially useful feature that illuminates a small indicator when in 6th gear. That's a helpful bit of information on the highway and puts an end to checking if you've got that one last gear left. The gas cap on the left hand side has a fuel indicator while the right hand side is the one you remove to gas up. By the way, there's even a Harley-Davidson logo stamped in the steel of the inside ring of the gas tank! Harley logo's are everywhere on this thing!

Stopping power is provided by dual disc, 4-piston fixed brakes in the front, and a 2-piston torque-free floating disc in the rear. Black stainless steel braided brake lines come standard. When you're on a bike this large you need to plan ahead a little when stopping so be sure to pay attention to traffic ahead of you. Combining liberal application of the rear brake with the front keeps things level and seemed to produce the most comfortable stops for me. Don't jam on the front brakes without using the rear as well as you'll quickly overburden the front suspension.

Suspension is by way of telescopic forks in the front while the rear consists of a twin sided swing arm with chromed shocks. The suspension on my loaner wasn't tuned for my weight so comments about it could vary from your personal experience. Over rough pavement and sharp bumps the suspension seemed quite firm. Have your dealership properly set up the suspension for your weight and type of riding.

In conclusion:

My daily rider is a Honda VFR 800 - a sport touring bike - so the HD Fat Bob is obviously a huge departure. After putting about 650 km's on this bike I must say that I was a little sad to have to give it back. One gets a feeling of invincibility riding this American made motorcycle. I felt pretty cool, like I was king of the road. One thing is certainly true - it draws the attention of other motorists and people of all ages. I don't get nearly as many "Cool bike" comments on my VFR. Plus that torque and v-twin exhaust note is highly addictive. 650 km's was enough to see some of the attraction of these big cruisers - enough to know that I'll jump at a chance to ride anything Harley makes in the future.

Specs

MSRP starting at $ 19,059 for Black and $19,499 for color
2329.94 mm

- Length or a little over 7.6 feet long.
- Dry weight 303.77 kg (~670 lbs)
- Wet weight 318.88 kg (703 lbs)
- Fuel economy (claimed) 4.44 hwy / 6.92 city per 100 km's
- Torque 124.75 Nm @ 3000 rpm
- 2-year unlimited mileage warranty.


Special thanks to Harley-Davidson Canada